After meetings with my supervisor I have decided to follow my instincts, which originally emerged during John Lett’s lectures, and document all my trials and tribulations that led me to this point. This is the part where I mill the English April bearded wheat grain I have grown and test it for nutrient and intuitive-sensuous qualities. These tests are the culmination of seven months of inquiry. I have changed my mind, many times, according to the research I was undertaking.
Initially I was inspired by John Letts and was going to have John as the central narrative. He talked about government control of the seed industry, where a seed has to be on the national list in order to be sold, swapped or given away. In order to appear on the list the seed has to be proved to be distinct, uniform and stable (DUS) and this test costs £2,000 and has to be completed every season. This isn’t the only hurdle to step over, the CUV test (“cultivation use value”) means the crop must prove itself as good as or better than those already listed when farmed “conventionally” (ie with high chemical inputs). These two tests are supposed to ensure good-quality seed that meets certain standards. As Martin Wolfe at the Organic Research Centre argues, in the 1920’s these tests were thought of as essential to combat unscrupulous seed merchants protecting farmers from seed that didn’t germinate in the bought form or did so in reduced numbers. But, this ‘protection’ for the farmer has now been hijacked by global chemical companies to ‘OWN’ seed. The rules, that John highlighted, rallied my brain and focussed my appetite. I hated the fact that something as universal and ubiquitous as this could be owned by a company for profit, or any other means come to think of it. John was growing heritage wheat that he had collected over 15 years from seed banks across the world, this is the modus operandi of heritage seed growers in the UK and in the US – I’ll talk more of that over the course of this thesis. These seeds are precious and are treated with reverence by Letts, Marriage (MD of Doves), Wolfe, and Forbes (or broackwell bake) In the US their is a burgeoning business around the sale and use of heritage seed, Maria Spiller is leading the West Coast push for grain to be entered into the food debate. Michael Pollan spoke of grain as the last bastion of the industrial food processing industry. It is relatively untouched by foodies either in the UK or the US.
The seed discussion is a crucial one as is mirrored in all other elements of the grain industry, I hadn’t realised at this point how sick the grain industry is.
On the day John came to the college I asked him how much it would cost to grow an acre of grain, he’d earlier suggested that 1200 loaves could be made off such a space. He replied that it would cost around £250, or ‘could be done for £250’ were his exact words. I was hooked. For a £250 investment I could make 1200 loaves. 1200 loaves at £2 a loaf, which is comparable to supermarket prices is £2,400 (in case you needed that bit of math) which is a big profit. I started to make plans to break down the growing and look at each part of the business.
I broke it down like this, in order of how difficult I thought is would be to complete or obtain:
> Land – This is hard to rent if you don’t know anyone in the area
Actually when saying I broke everything down, I didn’t, the question of land puzzled me so much I couldn’t think about anything else. The rest of the, (lets call it stuff for now) stuff I was relaxed about and hoped that in my new zen like state that everything would work out if I simple gave it a little thought and talked to the right people. I had a lot faith in the connections schumacher would offer up to me and in my ability to communicate with these connections. Coming from London I had no idea about country land, agricultural land as its known down in the these parts. In London land is either built on or owned by the Church, the railway or the council. If you have lots of cash then you might be able to get yourself some. In the country I assumed, considering we have a land ownership issue, putting the UK 2nd in the world for concentrated land ownership, that the London issue would apply. I started to ask around about land and renting an acre, why an acre I’m not sure, I think it was the size John used in his lectures and seamed like a good farm scale size.
The planning of the tests is crucial as I need to test flour at precise times. I am trying to test the nutrient levels and the intuitive-sensuous nature of it.
The experimental design, for the bread baking and intuitive-sensuous part, is as follows:
The exact same weight of grain will be milled three times at the same mill by the same miller and stored in the same paper bags in the same place.
They will all be bought to the kitchen and made into breads using exactly the same sourdough recipe by the same person. They will be baked in the same pot, in the oven in exactly the same place. The breads will be cut into equal slices and the ends discarded. The slices will then be cut into equal squares and randomised within the same loaf sample.
I want to measure taste as that is exactly what consumers would relate to, its not vague just variable and to a certain extent subjective, but again that is how people are.
I’d like to measure the following:
I’d then like people to describe the taste in their own words.
The nutrient tests will be for:
crude fibre (as long as the sample is not ground too fine)
We also have access to mineral analysis